Recently, I drove through the cemetery that you’re buried in, with a few friends. It was dark out and we were going for a drive, and when somebody suggested we drive through the graveyard, we all agreed. I didn’t think about what part of town we were in or where the person driving was turning towards, until somebody asked which cemetery he was heading towards. When he answered with “the catholic one”, my mind froze for a second. “That’s where my cousins are buried”, as soon as the words came from my mouth I almost regretted it, because what I said had just made the car ride awkward.
We finished our drive (I pointed out to all of them where your headstone was), we went home, we all went our separate ways for the night, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
This is where I need to admit that I don’t really go to your grave. I’m not sure if that makes me a bad person or not; if so, I’m sorry. I just can’t bring myself to go. I hate going to your grave. I hate seeing your life written out in just two dates and a few words. I hate that I can’t look at your headstone without thinking about how different life would be if it didn’t exist. When I go to your grave, I can’t help but think about what life would be like, if you had survived.
If you had survived, we would have done life experiences together. We would have gone through all the big milestones of high school years, together. We would have been in the same ages and stages at the same time. Through licenses, first cars, dates, friend “breakups”, and so much more, we would have been there at the same time, we would have had people to go through it with.
If you had survived, there’d be somebody else to spend time with at the family parties. Sometimes the boys get a little hard-to-handle and it makes me think about the times when we were little girls, that we’d sneak off together without them. If you had survived, we’d still sneak off together, and I wouldn’t sit at the “adult” table as often.
If you had survived, you would be up to date on all the current trends. You would have an account on Snapchat, Instagram, twitter, and all the other social medias that have taken off in the past five years since you’ve been gone. You’d know all the new lingo like “lit” and “yolo” and “swag” and all the other made up words that people have been using in the last five years. You’d know about the Marvel movies that have come out. You’d experience all the ridiculousness of this election. If you had survived, you’d see all the wonderful things that have taken place in the last five years.
If you had survived, I wouldn’t be the only cancer cousin. If you had lived, I wouldn’t be the only one who does survivor walks, and wears t-shirts that say “cancer sucks”, and gets awkwardly quiet when somebody makes a cancer joke. If you had survived, we would have been a “I hate cancer” team.
If you had survived, there’d be one more of everything. One more bridesmaid at all these family weddings. One more aunt for all these new babies. One more name in the Secret Santa exchange every Christmas. One more setting at every dinner table. One more person in the family group message. One more person to randomly text and spend time with. One more smile in the family photos. If you had survived, there’d be more.
Claire, if you had survived, so many things would be different. So many more stories would have involved you. If you had survived, there’d have been so many less tears, and so many more memories. If you had survived, I’d be talking to you in person or over the phone, rather than writing a letter on a blog that anybody could read. If you had survived, I wouldn’t feel guilty driving through the cemetery at night, with my friends; you might even have been with me. If you had survived, a million things would be different. And that’s a lot to try not to think about.
So, I’m sorry for not visiting your grave. I’m sorry for not posting “I miss you” things on your Facebook page. I’m sorry for not being over your death yet. I’m sorry that it’s taken me five years to even address it. I’m sorry that sometimes when I tell a story I leave you out of it, because it’s hard to explain who Claire was. I’m sorry, for the days where I don’t say your name. I’m sorry for the days, where I’m ungrateful for the fact that I lived. I’m sorry for the survivor’s guilt I let myself live with for years. I’m sorry for not posting things to raise awareness to this horrible disease. I’m sorry that when you were alive we didn’t always get along. I’m sorry for not coming to see you, in the hospital, on your last day. I’m sorry that I’ve gotten to experience life as a teenager and young adult, and you never will. I’m sorry that you didn’t live long enough to learn what a selfie is. I’m sorry that you didn’t get to see all the amazing things that have happened in the last five years; things like the new Harry Potter book, all the weddings and new babies in the family, the rise of pumpkin spice and coconut oil, your brothers amazing girlfriend, and so very much more. I’m sorry that you never got the chance to have a car, or go to prom, or get an “adult job”, or graduate high school. I’m sorry for every time we fought over how much older than me you were. I’m sorry that now you will forever be fifteen. I’m sorry that I don’t talk about you more. I’m sorry for everything I’ve ever done to dishonor your memory.
And sometimes, I can’t help but think that if you were alive, there’d be so much less to be sorry for.